I’ve had a lot of free time lately while recovering, and therefore have spent a ridiculous amount of quality time with my television, laptop, and Nook. I have been meaning to read Dr. Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages for a long time. It has been recommended to me by various friends, but I always forget about it. As it turns out, post-surgery was my time to enter the world of relationship self-help, which, I’ll be the first to admit, is a bit daunting. I have found that most self-help books can be rather scary, mostly, because I can be quite cynical.
I’m going to randomly discuss some of my thoughts about The Five Love Languages. I decided to read this book due to curiosity more than a desire to change my marriage. This isn’t a book review or anything close to scholarly.
I read the book in two days, and took major breaks in between. Basically, it took me a few sittings. I’m not saying that to brag, but, actually as a warning that you probably shouldn’t race through it as quickly as I did. I plan to go back and read it again, because I know there are probably some salient points I missed. My reading comprehension was only good when I was prepping for my SAT’s, and even then it wasn’t great. Must re-read this book.
As I was galloping through the first half, I was pretty close-minded. I found Dr. Chapman’s queries over if your spouse’s “love tank” was full or not to be hokey. I couldn’t imagine L and I sitting on our couch together mulling over where our love had gone. Also, the constant anecdotes about the marital problems between Janie and Jeff or Barbara and Bob or Fern and Frank didn’t seem to help me envision my own marriage and its flaws. I understand why self-help books feel the need to present evidence to make their case, but unless you closely identify with the problems or lifestyles of the hypothetical couples, it’s just a waste of time. Those were some of the things that kept me distracted and bored with sections of the book.
Now here is what I liked. I got what Dr. Chapman was saying about how we all give and receive love differently. He categorizes the five ways of giving and receiving love, and calls them languages. If you and your spouse speak different love languages, you may find your relationship unfulfilled. I found myself nodding along with Dr. Chapman in his descriptions of how we interpret love. For example, how our parents presented love to us, as children, has a lot to do with how we perceive love in our relationships as adults. Was it through hugs? Was it through gifts? Was it through home cooked meals? L and I were raised in households where love and affection were viewed differently. That has impacted how we interpret and express love in our current lives.
You don’t always love your spouse in the ways they need to be loved, and vice versa. It takes good communication, care for your spouse, an open heart, and an open mind. Sometimes these basic elements get lost along the way, especially as the years wear on, and we move away from the “honeymoon phase.”
By the end of the book, I think I discovered its purpose in my life. It wasn’t that I agreed with everything Dr. Chapman wrote, because I didn’t. It isn’t that my marriage is perfect, because it is not. I think everyone needs a dose of self-awareness every once and awhile. For me, that meant that I needed to open my mind. I needed to examine the fact that I am mostly fulfilled in my marriage. However, sometimes, I don’t know if my husband is fulfilled. It’s not about effort. I put forth a lot of effort. But, am I speaking his love language? I don’t know. I haven’t spoken a word about this to him. With all of my health issues and fertility issues, I do not always check in with L and make sure that we are on the same page. This makes me feel perpetually guilty. Yet, I don’t think I am much good to my husband as a guilt-ridden, emotional wreck. He needs a wife.
I also want him to read the book. I want to talk with him about it, or at least introduce him to the love languages. I may not have always loved him the way he needs to be loved, but maybe I can now.
There is SO much more about this book that I did not touch on. Again, this isn’t a book report, but just some of my random observations. Have you read this book? How do you feel about marriage counseling and/or marriage self-help? How do you maintain a healthy relationship with your spouse?